Each year, most often in the spring, our choir, Les Chants des Corbières, often combines our performances with a small repast ( repas). While concerts are usually free, we do have a small charge for the meal and it helps to pay the choirs expenses.
In this post you will see a bit of the activity that goes into preparing an autumn repas following a performance in the nearby village of Villesèque-des-Corbières (Pop: 388). The menu was kept simple. There was Pumpkin soup, baguettes, cheeses and a variety of desserts all made by choir members. There are always bottles of wine, juices and bottles of water on each table. However, we are also well known for our generous vat (30 plus gallons) of Sangria.
One of the first things I look for each autumn as the landscape begins to run rampant with colours are pumpkins and other squashes. When I first arrived in France they were abundant but almost unrecognisable to me. Living in California, New York and a few states in-between did not prepare me for what I would find at the local markets. No longer would I carve into a round and brightly orange vegetable. The pumpkins here are not round and smooth nor are they always orange. Many of the pumpkins are a light to medium and even a dark green. Regardless of the colour of the outside, they are all the same vibrant orange inside and quite delicious.
There is often a tombola (raffle) and prizes donated by local merchants including plants, travel, baskets filled with treats including bottles of wine.
While most of the songs we sing are French, we do have a few in our catalogue in Spanish, one or two in English and a few songs from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Audiences always have their favourites and they will demand encores so they can join it.
The choir has accumulated a large cache of dishes, silverware, glassware and serving pieces. It is a grand mismatched collection. Unlike typical village meals, our guests do not need to bring their tableware as everything is provided. We may be exhausted by the time clean-up is finished but smiling. Leftover food is usually shared among us with some of the cakes being frozen until our next choir practice along with some leftover sangria to wash it all down with.
Like part one, this was originally posted in 2015. However, I felt it well worth the repeat and there will be a few other, older, repeats in the next few weeks. A dear friend arrives from California on Thursday and I believe there will be some travel involved which should result in some interesting posts around mid November. Thanks for your continued support.
“Exile of Syria,” chiaroscuro of SAMEERAH AL BSHARAH
“BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOWS”
A short biography:
Sameerah Al Bsharah, Allama, was born on 1 January 1952 in Sweida (Syria). Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1977, she taught art education at the University of Damascus. Member of the Brotherhood of Syrian artists painters, Sameerah Al Bsharah has several exhibitions to her credit including the Syrian city of Latakia where she participated in the famous Biennale.
Living in Deraa, the family fled the conflict in 2012 and took refuge in Jordan, then in France in November 2014. Hosted by the Centre for Asylum Seekers Home (CADA) of Béziers, the family has obtained the status a refugee.
Sadly, I have no website or even email address to recommend to you and would suggest contacting CADA of Béziers for further information on the artist and her work.
The setting for this exhibit is Domain Langel just outside the village of Artisan. This tranquil setting surrounded by olive orchards and vineyards with honey coloured stone buildings waits to embrace the work of the artist as she translates through her paintings the torments of a country in turmoil.
While domain Langel continues their production of olive oil they also have set a goal of cultivating environmental education and cultural activities.
Over tea on the cold tiles of the kitchen, she carried her paintings and comments on: this is called <moustachfa> (<hospital> in Arabic) and reflects the expressions, the intermingling of bodies that may be encountered in Syrian hospitals overwhelmed by the influx of victims of war.
On another painting, three fish with sharp teeth represent that powerful attack of frightened people. Sameerah denounced the veto in the UN Security Council that would prevent international intervention and let the Syrian people defenseless. A composition black and white leaves perceive injuries, body and spirit.
Alongside these poignant testimonies of the Syrian conflict, other paintings pay tribute to Syrian beauty: lush scenery, smiling women and tranquility.
The paintings that Sameerah presents were dismantled from their frames before departure. Many stayed in Syria or Jordan; it was impossible to take everything into exile.
Due to factors beyond my control, the photos I offer are poor representatives of the work on offer. There is much more to add and therefore, this will serve as part one of an amazing exposition.
PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A BETTER VIEW.
As per usual, the summer has flown by all to fast for some of us. I must admit that I include myself in those numbers. However, the Autumn does have some delicious things going for it and what could be better than French wine?
One might imagine that things get rather quiet in a small rural village after the tourist season draws to a close. Yet, that is not the case. As early as late August, the vignerons begin the harvest. There will be some unfamiliar faces as young people from all over europe arrive to help get the raisins (grapes). From before seven in the morning until the last shards of light fade away the streets are a hive of tractors, grape harvesters and vehicles filled with pickers on their way to the vineyards and large trailers brimming with freshly harvested grapes.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small region than in the entire United States. A wide variety of grapes are grown here such as Grenache, Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Languedoc wines cover a rather broad spectrum, from white to red; sweet to dry and of course sparkling which pre-dates Champagne (but that will be another post and another time). The region proudly cultivates the vines on over 700,000 acres here along the Mediterranean coast. It is thought to be the single largest wine-producing area in the world. The Languedoc-Roussillon is arid, warm and brimming with sunlight. The rugged terrain of herbs, brush and resinous plants infuse the wine with their scents and flavours. It is the ideal terrain and climate for growing grapes. While the quality became secondary to quantity for a time in the early twentieth century the hard working vignerons committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.
A neighbor, Remy, makes a lovely collection of organic wines and also grape juice. If I am lucky, I can buy a few of the days pickings that did not end up in the vats. Gait is a manager for Remy and has the “honor” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back (porter). Being quite tall, he must bend to allow the pickers to dump the fruit into the container on his back which quickly fills. He follows around all of the people who are cutting the clusters of grapes and then transports his container when filled to the trailer which will quickly be transported back to the cave and on its way to the vats. While it is true that large machines harvest a vast amount of the grapes, a number prefer the hands on approach. Additionally, some of the terrain is such that this is not a viable option.
Most of the workers are seasonal and some speak little french. The perfume of fermenting grapes begins to fill the air as fêtes de vins fill our weekends with tastings, dances, music and more. They last well through November even though the last grapes have been harvested. While these photos are all taken at Domaine Sainte Juste, and Embres – Castlemaure there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more vineyards just a few kilometers away. Embres – Castlemaure is a cooperative and Durban has a wide variety of Vigneron (wine grower) There are at least thirteen seperate caves here. In addition, there are many who have smaller vineyards and make wine just for personal use or sell to a cooperative. If you want a workout, try your hand at the porter’s job. The receptacle on his back hold 60 kilo or just over 132 pounds. They carry those on their backs up hill and down for several hours a day during the harvest.
If you want an extreme workout, try the porter’s job. The receptacles they carry on their back hold 60 kilo or a little over 132 pounds. They are carrying these up and down hills and then taking them to the awaiting trailer to be hauled of to the cave.
In our village, a huge party is hosted after the vendange for all who participated. There is music, dancing and refreshments. This lasts well through the night.
Alas, this year, March was quite warm and enough to coax out those early shoots. April followed with two separate nights of frost and destroyed crops all over France. While some did not have severe losses, one of our local vignerons reports a loss of about twenty percent. Losses could be found on one side of a road with the opposite spared.
With the wine safely pressed and in the vats, the wine festivals commence. They are everywhere and one can pick and choose which to attend.
Homme de la Renaissance or The Renaissance Man. We hear of him but often there doesn’t seem to be much convincing evidence of his existence in the 21st Century. Yet there is such a man who walks among us here in the south of France. I am privileged to know one and fortunate enough to witness some of his many talents on a regular basis. Patric was born in Lyon and moved to this area in 1975. He has two sons and two daughters with 7 grandchildren and one on the way. He lives in a nearby village in an Eco home which he designed and built on his own. He is a vegetarian and grows much of his own food. Just who is this man? Is he a musician? A writer? An artist? Yes! He is all of these and so much more. It was my first year in France when I met Patric. For insurance purposes you must obtain a certificate from a chimney sweep, each year, that your fireplace has been cleaned and is safe to operate. I asked around and the number I was given was for Patric. He swept chimneys for 32 years and just retired two years ago.
Music: Patric can play any instrument that he comes in contact with. He also teaches music. Art: Patric studied at Ecole Boulle in Paris. Among his many talents, he is an accomplished wood craftsman, glassblower, painter, and photographer. He enjoys drawing with pen & ink. Patric has worked as a Wood crafter for eight years, at Masonry for five years while still making himself available for his other passions. His love of nature has motivated him to combine sketches and photographs with his writings into a book about edible plants. Perhaps if there is sufficient interest, I shall post further on the book when it is released. Patric loves to travel and related a story of when he was 17 years old how he rode a bicycle with a small motor all the way to Morocco. He has seven cats and his nickname is Patou which is a big shaggy dog found in the Pyrenees. The paintings were done by various artists with the exception of the self-portrait with the clock. Patric has had postcards made from them and uses those as his business cards. While the supply is dwindling, he quickly brought me all the ones I did not have after I saw him in Albas recently. Please do click on the photos so that you can see them better. When I saw Patric last week, I asked him if I could do a post and have him give me some information. For all his accomplishments, he is a modest man. Had it not been for his partner, I would not have had half the details you see here. She was generous and most patient to spend the time with me to uncover some of Patric’s many gifts. Bisous, Léa
In the past, a three post series has been made to share the art from this excellent annual exposition of hidden art. I do not see how I can possibly limit myself that harshly this year and so I hope that some of you will bear with me. One thing for sure, you never know where in Albas you will turn a corner and find some art you will never forget. It will inspire you, and get those creative juices flowing.
Claude Espada is a local artist and lives in a most charming village on the edge of the Mediterranean. I’ve no doubt that is where much of her inspiration lies… You can contact her at email@example.com or search for her on Facebook. Alas, I am not on Facebook so I cannot provide the link.
For additional information on mme. Gourvil, please see her website. While it is in French, a click of a button will translate it for you. http://gourvilgenevieve.com/
Daniel Cordonnier takes his photograpy to some fascinating levels. His mission, to make the invisible, visible. Please check out Daniel’s website for much more art and information: http://www.danielcordonnier.com You can also find him on Facebook.
This is the third post in this series. For me it is a delight to return to the charming little village of Albas for this expo each year. I do hope to attend both days next year as there is never enough time to really appreciate it all and a chance to meet the artist. I never photograph without the artist’s permission and they must be available for that. Please do visit the Eurocultures site as there is more than I can possibly accommodate here. There are a number of photos left from the exposition and I shall endeavor to create one more post in this series.
For additional information, to communicate with the sponsors of this and many other events, please contact Eurocultures en Corbières: https://eurocultures.fr/ or https://www.facebook.com/eurocultures/